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What Is an Empath?
An empath is a person who has a paranormal ability to sense and absorb the emotions and energies of the people and surroundings they encounter. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Sharon Saline, "Empaths have strong intuition and use it as their primary lens for processing the world around them. They are highly intuitive people who feel emotional and physical sensations on an extremely deep level, and intellectualizing those feelings is tough for them to do."
Signs of being an empath are: high sensitivity, generous hearts who may give too much to others, quick to respond to someone's needs. Because empaths naturally internalize other people's feelings, thoughts, and pain, empaths have a very difficult time distinguishing between other people's emotions and their own, which leads to extreme anxiety and emotional burden. Empaths can be easily overwhelmed in intimate relationships or in highly emotional situations. They need time alone, especially in nature, to recharge.
What It's Like to Be an Empath
For an empath, a seemingly regular day can be overwhelming because subtle stimulants feel overstimulating or unbearable. Empaths are able to deeply and quickly absorb a lot of energies that most people can't even sense, so a typical day can feel like a bombardment of energies associated with touch, sound, scent, light, activity, and conversation, which often results in mental confusion, emotional upset, and even physical discomfort.
Being an empath is not a curse, although it can feel that way until you learn how to cope with all the stimuli you encounter. If you are an empath, it is just genetically how you were made, so there is no cure for it. It has been said that 1 in 20 people are empaths, which shows it's a lot more common than one would think.
Is It Rare to Be an Empath?
20% of the population is genetically predisposed to being empaths. Being an empath is not a disorder. It is a character trait.
— Elaine Aron, Ph.D, psychologist at Stony Brook University, New York
Traits of an Empath
- Highly intuitive: You can sense what others are feeling and thinking and can anticipate their reactions to various situations.
- Compassionate, considerate, and understanding: You commiserate with other people's pain and suffering, and you feel strongly for other people's needs.
- Caring and Giving: You like to help others feel better, whether it is volunteering for a cause, fighting for the underprivileged, or healing others.
- Introverted: You tend to shy away from large crowds and enjoy regular solitude because taking on everyone's emotions is taxing.
- Inquisitive: You truly care about everyone and everything, so you are instinctively driven to ask questions or to do research to understand people and things on a deeper level.
- Creative: Because you have a keen ability to walk in other people's shoes, you are quite imaginative, and you are expressive of all the emotions that you are able to internalize. For this reason, you most likely enjoy writing, playing music, theater, or any other creative outlet that allows you to fully express your entire spectrum of feelings and imaginations.
33 Signs That You Are an Empath
- You're perceived as being highly sensitive
- You have a strong sense of knowing (you can read people and situations)
- You find public places overwhelming
- Strangers easily unload their emotions on you
- You absorb the emotions of others even when they're not near
- You are highly curious and are drawn to spirituality and the metaphysical
- You are drawn to ancient cultures
- You are naturally curious about your history and ancestral lineage
- You have a nose for the truth
- You experience sudden physical pain, suffering, or illness
- You cannot tolerate worldly news, radio, T.V., newspapers, violence, or cruelty
- You commonly experience digestive disorders and back pain
- You have an addictive personality
- You are drawn to holistic, natural healing and all things metaphysical
- You are creative and inquisitive
- You need regular solitude
- You get bored and distracted easily
- You love nature and animals
- You love being in water
- You sense the energy of food
- You seek answers and knowledge
- You root for the underdog and the underprivileged
- You cannot tolerate clutter
- You cannot tolerate restrictive clothing or jewelry
- You love freedom, travel, adventure, and the road less traveled
- You are an old soul
- You cannot tolerate narcissism
- You can be perceived as moody, aloof, or disconnected
- You detest doing things you don't enjoy
- You instinctively feel time, days of the week/month, weather, or direction
- You dislike antique, vintage, or secondhand items
- You are great listeners
- You only have a few close friends
1. You're perceived as being highly sensitive
Have you ever felt bad for someone and wanted to help them even when others around you didn't notice anything wrong? If you tend to get upset or sad over small and subtle things, then you may be an empath.
However, hyper-sensitive people (HSPs) may also be the exact same way and share many of the traits on this list. The difference between an HSP and an empath is that the empath can feel energies not only from people but from animals and nature as well. Furthermore, an empath cannot distinguish someone else's emotions from his/her own, whereas an HSP can.
2. You have a strong sense of knowing (you can read people and situations)
Beyond intuition and gut feelings, empaths just know things. The more you become in tune with your ability, the stronger this trait can become. Empaths frequently experience déjà vu and synchronicities. Synchronicity is a concept introduced by Carl Jung which purports that events have "meaningful coincidences," meaning things happen for a reason, and empaths can understand that purpose and work with it. With this gift, you can be a helper or a messenger because you can read and understand people and situations beyond what is obvious in the physical world.
Because of this, empaths are likely to have varying paranormal experiences throughout their lives as well, including near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs).
3. You find public places overwhelming
Ever notice that you can hike in the woods for miles and not be exhausted, but a trip to the grocery store can be unbearable?
Read More From Exemplore
Any place that contains too much energy can be a miserable place for an empath. Because of your ability to absorb others' energies, places like shopping malls, concert venues, grocery stores, traffic jams, hospitals, retirement homes, thrift stores, garage sales, and graveyards can be unbearable.
It could all be symbolic, but I wear certain stones placed in pendants when I go out, and it seems to prevent this. When I forget to wear them, I pay the price of being emotionally drained. The two that work best for me are labradorite and smokey quartz, but many people say that black tourmaline works best to protect against overthinking. Crystals and gemstones definitely help protect and heal, so try to invest in these 10 Healing Crystals for Anxiety.
Clearing and Protective Crystals for Empaths
Aqua Aura Quartz
4. Strangers easily unload their emotions on you
An empath can become a dumping ground for everyone else’s issues and problems, which, if you're not careful, can end up as your own. It is not uncommon for an empath to be told an entire life story by perfect strangers in a matter of minutes. People, animals, and children are drawn to empaths like magnets. It's as if the empath is a sudden sounding and solution board for other people's issues, problems, or opinions. This is difficult for many empaths, myself included, as what many may assume is a simple conversation is actually an exercise in emotion overload. When out and about, I am often randomly bombarded with the chatter of other people. It does not take long for me to get a whole life story in a matter of minutes.
5. You absorb the emotions of others even when they're not near
Empaths have a unique ability to pick up other people's emotional energy and take it on as their own. This can occur whether an empath is near a person, far from a person, or just thinking of a person—distance is not an issue here. For example, it is possible for an empath to pick up on negative thoughts from another person who is miles away. It can feel odd sometimes, as you may suddenly find yourself brought to tears or in a fit of rage, without much explanation.
6. You are highly curious and are drawn to spirituality and the metaphysical
Does philosophy, religion, spirituality, or the paranormal interest you? Empaths are passionate about understanding the universe and all its complexities. They stop at nothing to find the "Truth," and have an intense desire to learn how the world works and understand the purpose for everything. They have a sense that there is more to this universe than the physical, tangible things that can be seen and touched.
7. You are drawn to ancient cultures
You view ancient cultures as possessing universal laws and old traditions that are simple yet enlightening. Because you are a truth seeker, you love unearthing and understanding the origins of these cultures and why people chose to adhere to the laws that governed those societies.
8. You naturally curious about your history and ancestral lineage
You enjoy listening to stories about your parents' or grandparents' past, and you possess a genuine interest in learning everything you can about your ancestors and your family culture. It is not unlike you to keep a family tree.
You hold onto family keepsakes and heirlooms, and you cherish family photo albums. You also have a strong desire to pass the knowledge and treasured family items down to your children and grandchildren.
9. You have a nose for the truth
An empath just "knows" when someone is being dishonest or telling a lie, and insincerity, phoniness, or fake behavior is easily spotted. Many empaths are constantly seeking and looking for truth and just behavior in those they associate with. This becomes more prevalent when an empath discovers his/her gifts and birthright. Anything untruthful feels just plain wrong.
Did You Know?
Scientists believe that mirror neurons are the anatomical source of empathy. We are hard-wired to be emotionally reflective of others’ feelings. In fact, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni argues that the concept of “self “and the concept of “other” are meaningful only as they interrelate.
Empaths are hardwired with more extensive mirror neurons than most of us, therefore, they have a very fine-tuned sense of self and other, making them very accurate assessors of another's feelings.
— George Kraus, Ph.D., ABPP Board Certified in Clinical Psychology and in Group Psychotherapy
10. You experience sudden physical pain, suffering, or illness
Many empaths are bombarded with mysterious illnesses or pain that cannot be diagnosed by modern medicine. Being an empath is draining; it's unsurprising that they are often fatigued and suffer from migraines, sore throats, and aches and pains with no discernible cause. But the cause actually is clear—it is from absorbing others' energies. Until an empath learns to diffuse the various energies they have come to contain, these ailments will not resolve.
In addition to energy, empaths can also pick up physical pains and ailments from others (especially those they are very close to). They are more specifically prone to ailments in their throat, root, and solar plexus chakras. This is why grounding, staying true to yourself, and voicing yourself is very important.
11. You cannot tolerate worldly news, radio, T.V., newspapers, violence, or cruelty
The more attuned an empath becomes, the harder it will be for them to listen or hear this type of information because the world is constantly full of bad stories of crime, murder, rape, etc. It can become so intolerable that they have to halt receiving this information altogether.
12. You commonly experience digestive disorders and back pain
The solar plexus chakra is based in the center of the abdomen and is known as the seat of emotions. This is where empaths feel incoming emotions from another, which can weaken the area and lead to stomach ulcers, IBS, constipation, eating disorders, and lower back problems (from being ungrounded). Most empaths who are unaware of their ability commonly complain of these ailments.
13. You have an addictive personality
Alcohol and drug abuse are common for empaths. By polluting the mind, an empath attempts to block out and protect themselves from emotional energies they do not want to feel or absorb.